Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Monday, February 21, 2005

Sanctions for Togo: A new step for Africa?
The recent actions of ECOWAS, as well as the condemnation from the rest of the African nations heralds an important step for the continent. Never before has their been such continent-wide condemnation, and action, against a dictatorial leader acting outside of his country's constitution. Surely this is a sign of a more mature, more engaging Africa?

The West African nations of ECOWAS decided this weekend to throw Togo out of their organisation, and imposed so called "smart sanctions" - travel bans on Togo's leadership, cessation of diplomatic ties and arms embargo against the state. This after Gnassingbe had stated that he would hold elections in two months, but indicated he would not step down before the vote. The country's constitution calls for the national assembly head to take over the country and that elections must be held within 60 days of the death of a president. In other incidents, 10 000 people marched in the streets to protest against Gnassingbe's 'coup' over the weekend and Nigeria's National Assembly authorised President Olusegun Obasanjo to use his full powers, including military, to resolve the constitutional crisis in Togo.

Such condemnation under flouting of the constitution's rules is rare in Africa, and it is incredibly refreshing to see African nations unified against a despot such as Gnassingbe. Perhaps the relative size of Togo (it's GDP is about US$1.6 Billion, 1% of South Africa's US$160 Billion) points to the rationale of an easy state to make an example of, but it is still holds significance nonetheless.

It remains to be seen whether or not Gnassingbe will capitulate under the pressure, early signs are that he will, but the response from the continent has been exemplary. Hopefully it is the start of the continental house-keeping philosophy called for under NEPAD. Now, if only the SADC could do the same to Zimbabwe.